Fascism and Dark Money, II
There is a kind of superficial allure to what is today called “libertarianism”, which not only today serves to justify “dark money” but also gun culture and is apparently what motivates right-wing militias and militants such as the “Three Percenters,” some of whom are involved in the present occupation of the wildlife sanctuary in Oregon.
Like other contemporary ideologies — liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, etc — there are precedents for libertarianism in early Christianity and in Islam, too. But this original spiritual or religious impulse has very little to do with what is today called “libertarianism”, just as liberalism, conservatism, and socialism have likewise forgotten their roots as secular ideologies in the Gospels, and no longer recollect their original arising from the theological controversies of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The secular ideologies are, in essence, decayed and hollowed out residues and remnants of what were originally “spiritual” inspirations, but are presently only fragments and splinters of the broken cross that once served as the symbol of unity of “Christendom”.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms: Ephesians 6:12
Needless to say, between then and now, mainstream Christianity has become something else entirely. It has largely been turned on its head. But from this passage from Ephesians also follows, as corollary, St. Augustine’s: “love God and do what you will”, which contains a deep “libertarian” impulse.
So, what kept the original “libertarian” or anarchist impulse in Christianity from decaying into a mere self-indulgent libertinism was this “love of God” which, in practical terms, meant imitation of Christ. How to love God was a bit of a problem as long as “God” was only an abstract idea in the head, and not a real presence, even as an historical name. Since Jesus was this “Word made flesh” — a human avatar of the living God — “loving God” was a matter of loving the unity of man and God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and following his example. Loving God was a matter of mimesis — imitatio Christi. And the beginnings of Christianity itself lies in the commandment that Jesus gave to his followers: “be thou therefore perfect even as thy Father in Heaven…” And from this commandment follows, logically, the statement in Ephesians 6:12. The struggle is not against the body, but against those who have locked up the keys to “the kingdom of heaven”. The body, after all, was “the temple of the living God” and “the kingdom of heaven is within you”.
The precedent for Ephesians 6:12 was Jesus’ own example of berating the priest-rulers of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees, for locking up the keys to the kingdom of heaven, as recorded in Matthew 23:13-15,
…13“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 15“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.…
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. Needless to say, this hasn’t much to do with contemporary libertarianism, which has made “the self-interest” itself a god and so has become rather libertinism and libertinage, and also because “love God and do what you will” has little to support it as a directive with the “death of God”.
(And I will leave alone, for the time being, the question whether the “death of God” has anything to do with the total estrangement of the left-hemisphere of the brain from the right, in McGilchrist’s framework, or why “the master and his emissary” is a contemporary restatement, in neurological terms, of the parable of the Prodigal Son, who is the ego-consciousness).
The latter day representative of the pure libertine is, of course, the Marquis de Sade. But the precedent for de Sade was an obscure Christian monastic order (eventually suppressed as heretical during the Inquisition) called The Brethren of the Free Spirit. The Brethren of the Free Spirit were the counterpart to today’s libertarians. They were a debauched Franciscan order that claimed justification from the sermons of the mystic Meister Eckhart (although Eckhart denied that the Brethren had anything to do with his sermons or writings. Oddly, and perhaps significantly, later the Nazis were also to claim Meister Eckhart as their own precedent!). The Brethren seem to have indulged their more self-interested and carnal appetites (not excluding, apparently, rape and murder) rather freely, on the apparent premise that everything was God and all was forgiven already by the grace of God.
The Brethren of the Free Spirit are interesting nonetheless because they seem to be pivotal in the transition from the spiritual liberalism, even anarchism, of the early Christians to its devaluation as libertinism and libertarianism. The self-interest becomes sanctified, and the unrestrained pursuit of the self-interest becomes the sacred way. And I can’t help but wonder whether, in this, we see a shift from the right-brain’s mode of attention to the left-brain’s mode of attention, as described by McGilchrist. For it seems quite evident that what I call “Khayyam’s Caution”– i.e, that “only a hair separates the false from the true” — has something to do with McGilchrist’s description of the “divided brain”. It would make a lot of sense that it has something to do also with neurodynamics.
It actually makes eminent sense that the longing for emancipation, for expression, would originate in the suppressed part of the brain — the right hemisphere — but that this longing gets manipulated by the left-hemisphere to serve only the self-interest, and is turned or perverted into something else entirely. “Truthiness” rather than truth. For if McGilchrist is correct in his description of neurodynamics (and I think the evidence shows that he largely is) the predilection of the attention of the right-hemisphere of the brain is the “overview”, while the predilection of the attention of the left-hemisphere of the brain is only “the point-of-view”, and thus a perspectivising construct. The distinction between Ego and Self would be precisely reflected in neurodynamics and neuroanatomy.
Brain asymmetry makes a lot of sense, especially when trying to understand the “pendulum swings” of human history and the mind’s tendency to think in terms of extreme dualisms rather than mutually implicate polarities as, for example, in alchemy.
But more on that later.